Graduate Program Requirements
Course Requirements for the Ph.D.
Students are in full-time residency for three years during which time they take a minimum of 18 graded courses at the 400-level (certain 300-level classes may count towards this requirement). We encourage and promote interdisciplinarity, especially by way of coursework outside of the department in related fields and programs. Our course requirements are as follows:
Major field: 8 courses in the major field, 6 of which must be NU/CIC seminars. The advisor determines what counts towards the major field in correspondence with the student's proposed course of study.
Critical Theories and Practices: The same three-part course sequence is required of all students. This sequence aims to develop students' capacity for art-historical research and analysis while simultaneously cultivating their writing skills across a range of professional practices.
*AH 401 (Proseminar) is taken during the fall quarter of the 1st year. This course offers an introduction to the analysis of art and visual culture. It is expected that the course will survey a broad spectrum of issues that inform current work in the field and that it will cultivate analytic and writing skills.
*AH 402 (Writing Seminar) is normally taken during the winter quarter of the 2nd year. The course emphasizes and exercises the varied forms of writing and research that constitute the work we do, both as scholars in the humanities broadly conceived and as historians of art and visual culture more specifically. While students will practice writing in multiple formats (including, for instance, abstracts, exhibition and book reviews, bibliographic essays, wall texts, and short critical responses), the course is primarily geared toward helping students revise their 2nd-year Qualifying Paper.
*AH 406 (Dissertation Prospectus Seminar) is normally taken during the spring quarter of the 3rd year. It provides advanced students an opportunity to refine their dissertation project, introducing them to the mechanics of formulating a prospectus and grant proposals.
NB: None of these courses is expected to result in a research-based seminar paper.
Breadth Requirement: 4 courses in 3 major fields other than the student's own major field. All 4 of these courses must be normal Northwestern AH seminar offerings, and 2 must be in a geographic area of focus other than that of the student's major field.
Independent Study: Normally, students register for at least 1 credit of AH 499 with the dissertation advisor in the fall of the 3rd year, and often for 2 additional AH 499 with either the advisor or other members of the examination committee over the course of the 3rd year in order to prepare for their examinations and dissertation prospectus colloquium.
The remainder of the credits necessary to maintain full-time status (3 credits per quarter) in the 2nd and 3rd years are made up by elective courses, Independent Studies (AH 499), TA credits (AH 570) – of which each student can take one in the 2nd year and up to two in the 3rd year, provided no two are taken during the same quarter — and AH 590 (Advanced Research). Normally, students complete their seminar work by the end of the fall quarter of the 3rd year so they can focus on their exams and dissertation prospectus.
The M.A. degree
The M.A. in Art History is not designed as a terminal degree. It is awarded to all students who successfully complete the 1st and 2nd year requirements in good standing (see below). Students must have completed all the necessary coursework, and should not have Incomplete (Y) or NR grades on their record.
Credit for courses taken at other graduate Institutions
After completing four quarters in good standing, students may petition their advisor and the DGS for the transfer of up to three course credits towards the Ph.D. for graduate work conducted at another university. Based on the student's program, the advisor will determine, in consultation with the DGS, which, if any requirements these credits will satisfy (i.e. major field or breadth requirements). Transfer credits may not be used for any course within the three-part Critical Theories and Practices sequence.
The grades and progress of 1st year students are reviewed by the faculty after each quarter, and the DGS meets quarterly with every 1st year student to discuss coursework and progress.
All students are evaluated at the end of every year by the faculty on the basis of written evaluations of their performance in coursework and the promise they show as potential Ph.D. candidates. Students not judged to be in good standing (see below) will receive notification from the department and are asked to meet with the DGS to assess possible remedies.
By May 1 of the 2nd year, all students submit a 25-page Qualifying Paper (QP), which is evaluated by committees of three full-time AH faculty members designated by the Committee on Graduate Affairs. Normally, each committee is comprised of the student's advisor and two other faculty members, such that each QP is read by experts with a suitably wide range of interests. The student selects the QP from papers written for AH courses at Northwestern during the 1st four quarters and develops it during the winter quarter Writing Seminar of the 2nd year (AH 402). Students may pass the QP with or without honors. If a QP does not pass, it may be resubmitted to the entire AH Faculty by October 1 of the following year. If this does not pass, the student is not invited to re-matriculate after the 3rd year. Details and examples of successful papers can be found in the Art History Graduate Student Handbook.
In the winter quarter of the 3rd year, all students take a three-hour oral Ph.D. qualifying exam. The exam is administered by a three-person committee chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor and is based on field bibliographies generated in consultation with the appropriate committee member during the fall quarter of the 3rd year. Two members of the committee must be full-time AH faculty and one must be tenured. Each member oversees one field of the exam according to the following categories:
- The major field, which adheres to a recognized teaching field, e.g. 20th Century Art, 19th Century Art, Caribbean Art, Early Modern (Northern or Southern), History of Modern Architecture, Chinese Art, African Diaspora, Medieval, etc.
- The field of concentration within the major field. This concentration varies according to course of study. It may be, for instance, a theoretical model, a precise historical moment, a genre of production, or even an individual artist. Normally, this is the area from whence the dissertation develops and the bibliography is constructed with an eye to the formulation of a viable prospectus.
- A secondary field or topic, meant to be complementary to the major field. This field is developed by the student in consultation with his or her advisor.
Students may pass the exam with honors or without. If the student does not pass the oral exam, a two-week, take-home, written exam is assigned for each field not passed. If the written evaluation is not passed, the student is not eligible to re-matriculate.
The length of the bibliographies varies by field, but generally, bibliographies for the major field include in the vicinity of 50 titles, while those for the concentration within the major and the secondary field have half this number.
The Prospectus and the Dissertation
The dissertation is the final requirement for the Ph.D. and is intended to represent a substantive contribution to the field based on the student's original research and analysis. It is supervised by the advisor with input from other members of the dissertation committee. This committee is comprised of three Northwestern faculty, selected by the student and the advisor, who also chairs the committee, in the winter quarter of the 3rd year. Often, this is the same committee as the exam committee. At least two of the committee members are from the AH department and two must be tenured.
After passing the oral examinations, students write an eight to ten-page dissertation prospectus (plus bibliography) in the spring of the 3rd year. This is written in close consultation with the advisor and is refined in AH 406. The prospectus is meant to present a clear vision of the student's project, the objects/issues on which it takes focus, and the contribution it stands to make to the field. The prospectus should include 1) an overview of the project and the principle questions that motivate it; 2) brief chapter outlines or principal components of the argument; 3) a purposeful account of the "state of the field;" and, 4) a research plan. The proposal is defended in a colloquium with the dissertation committee. This is held before the end of exam week in the spring quarter of the 3rd year. Once the proposal is defended and passed, the student is advanced to candidacy, and must be so before the end of the 4th year.
Examples of dissertation proposals are in the Art History Graduate Student Handbook.
When the student and advisor agree that the dissertation is ready, it is defended at an oral defense with the complete committee. Normally, this is before the end of the 7th year.
Students must pass two foreign language reading proficiency exams before being advanced to candidacy. One of these must be in the 1st year and, typically, one of these languages must be French or German, while the 2nd is selected by the student in consultation with the advisor in relation to the student's program. In some circumstances, additional language competency may be required.
Good standing is determined by the faculty and the DGS. Students must maintain an A- (3.7) average in all graduate courses to be in good standing. They must also complete the above evaluations and requirements in a timely and successful manner.
First year students are advised by the DGS, who meets with all 1st year students at the time of pre-registration. At the end of the 1st year, students select an advisor in their major field, presumably the dissertation director. From this point forward, the advisor oversees the student's course of study, although the DGS meets with each student in residence at least one time a year to ensure progress is made at the appropriate pace. The responsibility to meet departmental and university requirements remains the student's.
The Department is committed to providing all of our graduate students with support and assistance in the process of applying for external funding for dissertation research in the 4th year and beyond. We maintain an up-to-date database of all fellowships for which our students might be eligible, and solicit self-nominations for grants and fellowships that require departmental nomination in the early fall each year. A member of the full-time faculty serves as Graduate Placement Officer, offering encouragement and advice in the process of applying for external funding as well as for jobs.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 • 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Warnock Lecture: Zainab Bahrani (Columbia University)
Wednesday, January 22, 2014 • 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Warnock Lecture: Robert Bagley (Princeton University)
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 • 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Warnock Lecture: Kerry James Marshall (Chicago visual artist)